Blackstone River Bikeway, Rhode Island

The Blackstone River Bikeway takes you through the heart of the Blackstone Valley. Peddle past historic mills, workers housing, the Blackstone Canal, the Providence and Worcester Railroad, and the Blackstone River itself.

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National Recreation Trail

Designated in 2005


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in the NRT Database

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This facility connects 15 Preserve America municipalities along the Blackstone River, an American Heritage River, and is the center of the National Park Service's John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor.

Created by an act of Congress in 1986, the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor is where the industrialization of America began with the first water-powered cotton mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. The development of mill villages followed along the Blackstone River and its tributaries, spreading out across the valley in a pattern that can still be seen and experienced today in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

The Blackstone River Bikeway is a beautiful way to explore the Blackstone Valley, whether by bike or on foot, and offers something for everyone to enjoy. With over 24 miles already constructed, the vision is for the bikeway to extend 48 miles from downtown Worcester, MA, to India Point Park in Providence, RI. When completed, the Blackstone River Bikeway will serve as an alternate mode of transportation for commuters as well as the region’s premier recreational resource, connecting New England’s second and third largest cities. 

The trail is fairly wide with excellent wayfinding signage. After briefly following along a park access road, the trail crosses the road and continues through the Rivers Edge Recreation Complex, where you’ll have access to a playground, restroom facilities, and multiple sports fields. Traveling out of the park, the trail parallels an active rail line as you make your way south, leaving Woonsocket behind and entering the community of Manville. There are multiple places to stop along the way to take in the beauty of the river and read interpretive signage about the trail’s history.

Eventually, the rail-with-trail crosses the Blackstone River, allowing for an unusual view of this side-by-side configuration of trail and rail over the water. Now on the other side of the river, the trail snakes down and under I-295, which surrounds Providence. The path crosses over the Blackstone River at the impressive Ashton Mill. Once producing cotton fabrics, this vast industrial complex has been converted into riverside apartments and lofts. The Ashton Mill and its surrounding homes were one of four mill villages that lined the river in this area—built and owned by the Lonsdale Company in the 19th century. Here, you’ll also pass the Captain Wilbur Kelly House Museum. Housed in the historical residence of a canal boat captain, the museum displays the history of transportation along the Blackstone River and canal, from prehistory through the Industrial Revolution.

photo credit: Janie Walker
Highway and Pedestrian Bridge.

Highway and Pedestrian Bridge.

A branch of the trail also heads north to the large Blackstone Valley Visitor Center, off I-295. In addition to drinking water and restrooms, the center has a gift shop, a gallery, and exhibits about the Blackstone Valley river corridor. Don’t miss the vast terrazzo floor map of the valley, complete with the Blackstone River Greenway.

Head south of the Kelly House Museum on the main trail and you’ll pass under the Martin Street bridge, with its striking timber bowstring trusses. After 1.5 miles, you’ll arrive in Lonsdale, one of the mill villages along the banks of the Blackstone River. To the east, you’ll find a short pathway to parking near Lonsdale Mill. Cross over the churning Pratt Dam on an impressive bridge that uses the original stone piers from the trail’s railway past. About a mile away, you’ll come to another parking area—this one is marked with a restored drive-in theater sign, featuring the Blackstone River Bikeway and habitat restoration on its marquis. The trail meanders through secluded marshland over a boardwalk bridge, where it comes to an end at Jones Street.

Visit the Blackstone Heritage Corridor website for greenway updates and maps with suggested on-road routes that connect the off-road trails.

photo credit: Janie Walker

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